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Durs Grünbein
at the
complete review:

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Nationality: German
Born: 9 October 1962
Awards: Georg Büchner Prize (1995)

  • Born in Dresden
  • Berlin resident since 1985

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Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

Please note that this bibliography is not necessarily complete.

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What others have to
say about
Durs Grünbein:

  • "Younger by five to ten years than most of the poets once gathered loosely around the former Prenzlauer Berg "scene" in East Berlin, Durs Grünbein from Dresden (b. 1962) has emerged as one of the most visible, prolific, and intellectually serious poets of that generation. Unlike some of his peers, who seem to have become disoriented by reunification -- e.g., Uwe Kolbe and Bert Papenfuß-Gorek -- Grünbein has consistently worked to develop his own idiom and poetic identity." - Neil H. Donahue, World Literature Today (Spring/1995)

  • "For many, the after-effects of 1989, of the Wende, were at best disorienting, at worst crippling. Few survived the upheavals and the losses more successfully and more creatively than Durs Gruenbein, born in Dresden in 1962 and living in East Berlin since 1985. Indeed, it could be said that no East German writer, certainly no East German poet, has made a greater impact in the 1990s. (...) Gruenbein's themes are timely, but they do not make him into a political poet -- the range of his concerns is too wide for that; moreover, it is the self-observing poet who is at the centre of things." - Philip Brady, Times Literary Supplement (6/6/1997)

  • "1989 hat die Geschichte aufgehört, uns zu langweilen. Je ungewisser die Zukunft wird, um so beunruhigender wird auch die Vergangenheit. Deshalb beherrscht beim derzeit wohl für allgemeine Stimmungslagen empfindsamsten deutschen Lyriker die Geschichte fast jeden Vers" - Harald Jähner, Berliner Zeitung (20/3/1999)

  • "Sein Werk hält seit dem ersten Gedichtband Grauzone morgens (1988) Distanz zu den Ideologien und utopischen Erwartungen des 20. Jahrhunderts und zum Leitdiskurs der DDR-Literatur. Daher ist die Desillusionierung über den Zerfall der projektierten Zukunftsgesellschaft für ihn nicht wie bei Volker Braun das Resultat eines längeren Prozesses der Enttäuschung über das einst Geglaubte, sondern bildet das unhintergehbare Fundament seines Schreibens, auf dem alles Folgende aufbaut. In seinem Werk betreibt er, auch wenn das von der Kritik gern übersehen wird, mehr als nur die Auseinandersetzung mit der untergegangenen DDR, nämlich eine grundsätzliche und schonungslose Analyse der modernen Zivilisation." - Heinrich Kaulen, Freitag (26/3/1999)

  • "Der poetische Anklangsraum Grünbeins ist sehr reich. Wir geben nur ein paar Eckdaten: Horaz und Ovid, Goethe und Hölderlin, Brecht und Benn, W.C.Williams und Heiner Müller, Kunert, Rühmkorf und Enzensberger, immer wieder Enzensberger." - Dieter Kief, Der Standard (30/4/1999)

  • "Gedichte von Durs Grünbein lesen heißt, mit rationalem Kalkül einem Körpertier in seine sinnlichen Erfahrungen folgen." - Dorothea von Törne, Die Welt (19/6/1999)

  • "Angesichts so viel Schwindel erregender Virtuosität fragt man sich irgendwann: Wo will er, dieser so früh Vollendete, eigentlich noch hin ? " - (Die Welt 22/11/1999)

  • "Grünbein is a truly cosmopolitan poet, equally at home in the Rome of Ovid and Juvenal, the Paris of Baudelaire, or the Berlin of Liebknecht and Luxemburg. He transcends the narrow confines of his particular "place in the universe" (to use Mandelstam's famous phrase), creating poetry which, however subtly, participates in and facilitates Germany's sustained attempts of reconfiguring and redefining itself in post-Cold War Europe." - Michael Eskin, Times Literary Supplement (18/2/2000)

  • "Originating in the language of the body, Grünbein's poems also aim to engage the reader at a somatic level. Although he makes constant reference to literature, myth, and history, these are employed not as ends in themselves but as enhancements of more elemental perceptions." - Francis Michael Sharp, World Literature Today, (Winter/2000)

  • "Seit den Essays des frühen Enzensberger hat es wohl keinen Schriftsteller gegeben, der in diesem proteischen Genre eine solche Kunstfertigkeit, Belesenheit, ja geradezu enzyklopädische Neugier bewiesen hat wie Durs Grünbein." - Michael Braun, Neue Zürcher Zeitung (26/6/2003)

  • "For a rather long time now -- approximately, since the Berlin Wall came down -- the name Durs Grünbein (b. 1962) has been the answer to the question: who's the leading young poet in Germany ?" - James Fenton, The Guardian (29/1/2005)

  • "Despite the very modern feeling to much of Grünbein's work he does not become trapped in a limited worldview, and allusions to art, history and classical literature abound and generate a type of universalism through their sometimes anachronistic placement." - David Hellman, San Francisco Chronicle (6/3/2005)

  • "Grünbein's poems read as if the forces of history pressing in on the present drove them into this world." - Melanie Rehak, The New York Times Book Review (8/5/2005)

  • "Even I, with no formal knowledge of German (but, after years of lieder and opera, able to follow it haltingly), couldn't help but stay awake all night reading Grünbein's severe work -- an absolutely unignorable body of verse. (...) What was it in Grünbein that so seized my attention ? It was the sardonic humor, the savagery, the violent candor -- all expressed in lines of cool formal elegance. (...) For readers who find a confirming darkness in themselves, in society, or in the powers that be, Grünbein appears as a voice in the wilderness, an astringent corrective to the mandatory blandness of those cheerful murderers talking at us from the television." - Helen Vendler, The New Republic (5/11/2008)

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Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

  • Broad range of talents, well put to use
  • Approachable, varied works
  • Captures modern sense of displacement and an unrooted world well

  • Only a few of his poems available in English (and no collections)
  • Seeming omnipresence in the German literary world

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the complete review's Opinion

     Durs Grünbein is among the last poets that can be called "East German". Born in 1962, he grew up under that regime, and his literary, social, and political influences clearly, in the first instance, came from that environment (one already then in deep decay). The East German tradition, at least in poetry, was a particularly rich one. An older generation included figures like the great Volker Braun (see, for example, our review of his collection Lustgarten, Preußen), Sarah Kirsch, Heinz Czechowski, Karl Mickel. A younger generation includes prominent figures such as Uwe Kolbe and Kurt Drawert -- but Grünbein stands apart even from those closer to him in age.
     Unification seemed to come at an ideal time for Grünbein. He achieved his first success even before then, with Grauzone morgens (see our review), published in 1988 by the venerable West German Suhrkamp Verlag (with Heiner Müller helping to place that first manuscript), but he really came into his own in those years of reunification. He then flourished and thrived in the changed Germany -- one of the few writers who appeared not to be overwhelmed by events, but rather built upon them, and the opportunities they afforded.
     Grünbein's poetry shows few limitations, and is still evolving and changing. While not a true experimentalist, he is willing to try most any form, approach, and subject matter. He builds on tradition (and returns to it -- especially to the classical period -- frequently), but doesn't let himself be limited by it.
     Grünbein also writes non-fiction -- essays, observations, his diary Das erste Jahr (see our review), and many prize-acceptance speeches -- and shows his facility with expression there too.
     Still relatively young, it will be interesting to see what he does in the future. An interesting poet, well worth following.

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Durs Grünbein: Works by Durs Grunbein: Durs Grünbein's books at the complete review: See also:

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